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Google seems to have accomplished what it is after, which is to be able to provide its services wirelessly.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

On November 5, Google announced its plans for wireless phones. Google, along with a number of other companies (about thirty so far), has signed on to a new wireless phone operating system or 'platform' as they refer to it, called Android, named for the company Google bought that was already working on this type of platform.

The operating system, user interface and first applications will come from Google, but the Open Handset Alliance members include HTC, Qualcomm, Samsung, Motorola and wireless network operators including T-Mobile International, Sprint Nextel and NTT DoCoMo (for now).

The O/S, user interface and applications will be free to handset makers, and the idea is to provide a common platform to make surfing the Web easier and, of course, to access Google and view more ads. Google says Android is also designed to promote innovation and new uses for sophisticated handsets (smartphones).

I think this is a good move for Google and, since it is working with incumbent network operators, I believe a balance will be struck between full open access and the protection network operators need to make sure their networks are not abused and that all of their customers have access.

Several reports mentioned that AT&T and Verizon were missing from the list of network operators, but this announcement was just the beginning. It takes some network operators a little longer to digest new ideas, especially a new operating system that could have an impact on their networks. I have said all along that there has to be a balance between full open access and the managed network aspects of wireless networks. This looks as though it is a move forward for both the open access crowd and the network operators.

I would certainly not count out either AT&T or Verizon. In fact, shortly after the announcement, many of us received an email from Jeffery Nelson, Executive Director of Corporate Communications, who does a great job of keeping the analyst community up-to-date with Verizon Wireless. His email says, "wanted to make sure you saw this -you can attribute to me if you want." The email goes on to say that Verizon Wireless shares the goal of a more open mobile application development, and the part I like best is that "Yet again, the highly-competitive wireless industry is demonstrating that neither legislation nor regulation is required to produce innovation." Well said, Jeff.

Over the next few weeks as we learn more, we will find out if this is a plan to simply get us to move our deskbound Internet to wireless devices or if the applications, devices, networks, and back-end systems will be smarter so we have a true wireless Internet available to us―an Internet that is friendlier and easier to use on a mobile device. Time will tell.

The question that remains is whether Google will really show up at the auction for the 700-MHz spectrum. On the one hand, Google seems to have accomplished what it is after, which is to be able to provide its services wirelessly. Being able to work across many networks is better than having to convince people who are already using wireless on another network to switch to Google Wireless, Inc. And now it has international partners including NTT DoCoMo and T-Mobile International.

Will Google still show up at the auction? Will it bid the reserve price of $4.6 billion to make sure the C block remains under the open access rules, or will it sit this out? If Google sits it out, the bidding for the C block might not reach the reserve price, in which case it will go out to bid again without the open access requirements.

Or will Google go after and win the C block and then use it as collateral to get one of the two largest network operators to join the fun? Jeff's final comment might be the most important one: "If you asked me: We haven't ruled out joining this group!"

Enough said. Google, welcome to the world of wireless-but please remember that spectrum is a finite resource and bandwidth is shared!
Andrew Seybold

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